Trinity School of Medicine has always prided itself on the strength and ambition of its students. So many future physicians come our way looking for something new; whether that’s learning environment built on support and a strong relationship with the faculty, a curriculum with an emphasis on clinical skills and service to patients, or just a true opportunity to live up to their potential.
In this latest edition of our alumni spotlight, meet Dr. Catherine Nowierski, a Family Medicine Resident at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada.
What brought you into medicine?
There were numerous experiences that brought me into medicine including sports, research, and physician role models. However, volunteering at the child life center at the Children’s Hospital in London, ON during my undergraduate degree is what truly changed the direction of my studies from research into clinical medicine. This was the first time I had the opportunity to work with patients, hospital staff, and physicians firsthand. I really enjoyed being a part of the patient’s treatment circle, however, I wanted to make a bigger impression on the kids overall health and quality of life. That’s what brought me into medicine.
What’s your academic background?
I completed both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Chemistry from Western University, London, ON. Following this I completed my medical degree at Trinity School of Medicine, then a Graduate diploma program in Medical Sciences from Queen’s University, Kingston.
What brought you to Trinity?
I defended my Master’s degree thesis in December and had to decide what my next steps would be. I knew that I wanted to pursue medicine and my choices were either waiting for the next academic year to apply for schools in Canada, or apply to Caribbean schools and start sooner. The choice wasn’t easy. My preference was to start sooner and work hard to make myself competitive for residency applications in the future.
What ultimately helped you make the decision?
The opportunity to begin clinical rotations at the hospital within the first few weeks of starting at Trinity is what ultimately helped me make my decision. This, coupled with the opportunity to travel and experience medicine in different hospitals and clinics in the Caribbean, USA, Canada, and Argentina sealed the deal for me. These experiences provided me with a global perspective of medicine which have made a positive impact on the way I practice medicine now.
St. Vincent is a big transition from Canada. How was it?
Fun! The key is to keep an open mind and keep up with things that you like to do. The best thing that I did was arrive with my volleyball, frisbee, and some equipment for Crossfit. When things seemed to get a little overwhelming I would do something active then refocus on what needed to be done. After the first semester was over I had more information on what I was unable to obtain on the island and while back at home on break I organized a shipment for myself with things that I would need for the rest of my time on St. Vincent. This made things much easier.
Any particular memories of your time at Trinity?
I have so many wonderful memories from my time at Trinity. They include meeting many amazing people, climbing the volcano, swimming in the salt ponds, hiking to see the St. Vincent parrots at dawn, sailing around the Grenadines, scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing. I will also never forget the amazing fruit (guava, mango, papaya, starfruit, etc) and seafood (lobsters and all types of fish) that I had the opportunity to enjoy on a daily basis. I loved going to the market to pick up fresh produce and fish. The one thing that I will never forget is the smell of ylang ylang from my backyard where I was living.
Where did you match?
Family Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada.
What drew you to your specialty?
Family Medicine was a specialty in which I could work with patients of all ages, have continuity of care, perform procedures in office, but most importantly balance my personal and professional life. With two children it was important for me to have flexibility and no call.
Are you working on any research projects?
Yes, I am conducting a systematic review on the extra-skeletal effects of Vitamin D.
Any specific advice for Canadians looking to head back home?
Be persistent. If you want to return to Canada for residency be realistic and open minded. IMG spots can be very limited, especially in certain specialties, so make sure you know where you want to end up, plan rotations there, meet people, make yourself seen, and don’t give up. If spots are limited in a specialty you are very passionate about, consider applying to the USA as well.
How is life as an IMG in Canada?
I don’t believe it is any different than being a Canadian graduate in Canada except for the PRP (pre-residency program) period at the beginning of residency. Ultimately, no one will know that you are an IMG unless you tell them.
Do you have any advice for current or future Trinity students?
Embrace all the experiences Trinity has to offer. Engage in the community, extracurriculars, and have fun. Remember to balance your personal and professional life. This will be more important and harder to obtain than learning and passing your board exams. Don’t give up!